How to Celebrate Safely This Holiday Season

holiday travel

December 23, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Cristina Cicogna, M.D.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has not come to an end yet, this year’s holiday season should seem more like pre-pandemic times than last year’s holiday season, when people were encouraged to avoid gathering indoors with people from outside their COVID bubbles, unless everyone could self-quarantine first for 14 days.

The widely distributed COVID-19 vaccines are one important game-changer this year. Now that more than 61 percent of Americans – including about 70 percent of New Jerseyans – have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you may feel more confident about celebrating in person with friends and relatives, whether they live near or far.

However, it’s still important to observe some safety precautions to help limit the spread of COVID-19, which is still very present in our society. The preventive measures that you take should vary, depending on what you’ll be doing for the holidays, where you’ll be going and whom you’ll be celebrating with.

Traveling safely this holiday season

If you’re planning to visit friends or relatives out-of-state this holiday season – or if you’re planning a holiday getaway to a vacation destination – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you delay your travel plans until you are fully vaccinated.

Unless you drive to your destination, you may have to wear a mask while traveling. All people, including fully vaccinated people, must wear masks over their noses and mouths while:

  • On buses, trains and other forms of public transportation
  • On airplanes
  • In airports, train stations, bus depots and other transportation hubs

Anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated who must travel should get a COVID-19 test 1 to 3 days before traveling and await a negative result before traveling. Once you return home, get a COVID-19 test 3 to 5 days later, and self-isolate at home for 7 days, even if you receive negative test results. If you choose not to get a COVID-19 test after returning home, self-isolate for 10 days.

Gathering safely this holiday season

When you’re celebrating with people from outside of your household, it’s best if everyone has been fully vaccinated.

Smaller gatherings are still safer than larger gatherings, and outdoor gatherings are still safer than indoor gatherings.

During December, when it’s too cold for extended outdoor gatherings, indoor gatherings may be safer when windows are open so that air flows freely. Avoid gatherings in poorly ventilated spaces. 

Preparing children aged 5 and up for the holiday season

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is approved for all people aged 5 and older. Children aged 5 through 11 began receiving their first COVID-19 vaccinations during the first week of November. 

People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after receiving their second shot. The second Pfizer vaccine is given 3 weeks after the first shot, so children who were vaccinated in November will be considered fully vaccinated well before Christmas and the winter recess from school. 

To be fully vaccinated by December 25th, your child needs to have had the first Pfizer vaccine on or before November 20th, then the second vaccine three weeks later, on or before December 11th.

Protecting children under age 5 this holiday season

If your children aren’t old enough for COVID-19 vaccines, the best way to protect them is getting fully vaccinated and celebrating the holidays with other people who are fully vaccinated.

Also consider:

  • Attending smaller gatherings with people from your local area, rather than larger gatherings with people from multiple destinations
  • If you’re with others outside of your household and have not tested prior, wear masks indoors, even if you’re fully vaccinated, to help protect your unvaccinated children
  • Asking your children aged 2 and older to wear masks; children under 2 should never wear masks

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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